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Occasional Talk with Quinn DuPont

Algorithmic Governance: A Study of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations for the New Information Society

In June, 2016, to much fanfare, an unusual “blockchain” platform launched and raised an unprecedented $150m USD investment from some 10,000 to 20,000 people. Within days of its launch, however, the platform the same technology underlying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—was exploited and drained of almost half its value. This study describes an emerging form of algorithmic governance. It is made possible by immutable “smart contracts” running on cryptographically-secure, decentralized blockchain systems. These so-called “decentralized autonomous organizations” (DAOs) promise new socio-technical structures, for finance, law, and politics, that—unlike the contracts of old—are transparent, efficient, fair, and democratic. Over 2016-2017, I traced the online discourses surrounding The DAO. Through computerassisted, qualitative analysis and coding, I identified the discursive emergence of three challenges to algorithmic governance—questions of legal authority, tensions in practical governance, and the complexity of bringing to life an experimental organizational model. By identifying these challenges, this study helps lay a roadmap for any future technical system meant to tackle complex social problems, and offers a cautionary tale for such aspirations.

Date: Friday, March 17, 2017
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Venue: Coor 5536

Meet & Greet
Date: Friday, March 17, 2017
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Venue: Coor 5536

Lunch will be served.

RSVP by Thursday, 3/16 here.

Speaker Bio: Quinn DuPont studies human and social dimensions of cybersecurity and code, and is an active researcher in digital and new media studies, digital humanities, and the history of science and technology. He also has nearly a decade of industry experience as a Senior Information Specialist at IBM, IT consultant, and usability and experience designer. His current research focuses on Bitcoin, cryp-tocurrencies, and blockchain technologies, and he is currently involved in Canadian SCC/ISO blockchain standardization efforts. His forthcoming book, Cryptocurrencies (Polity), is a scholarly survey of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies in society.